I've just come back from a relaxing all inclusive break in Gran Canaria. I never used to be a fan of all inclusive. The thought of being stuck at a hotel, desperately eating any and all food no matter how depressing it looks and tastes while washing it down with watery lager in an attempt to get the best "value" out of the holiday didn't appeal to me. I much prefer spending as much time out of the hotel as possible, exploring the local sights and gorging on tasty food and drink at the local restaurants. But now that I'm older, slower and have a mortgage, the thought of paying one price and just doing naff all for a week is getting more appealing. Luckily the food at the hotel was pretty good if a little mushy, probably to cater to the tremendous amount of old, saggy Germans and French who were staying there. I expected big body sizes from the Brits but I had no idea French people could let themselves go so much.
While the food was fine the beer wasn't so great. The only lager offering at the hotel was Amstel, which is never going to win an award for most tastiest beer, or indeed win any award at all, except perhaps "Most mediocre beer." In the hot weather it was bland but refreshing. On Eurovision night the opportunity arose to get some beers for the hotel room to help lubricate me up for a evenings entertainment enjoying the best music and political voting Europe (and Israel) has to offer.
Now obviously because I was not in London I wasn't expecting to buy crazily hopped IPA's or boozy stouts but it was sad that nearly all the supermarkets on the island offered the same three products: Heineken, San Miguel and Tropical. Tropical is the local brew, made by Compañía Cervecera de Canarias (CERCASA) in the Islands capital city. I thought it would be rude not to give it a go. Turns out CERCASA are owned by mega brewing conglomerate SABMiller and this was obvious from the taste of the beer. It had a little bit more going on than the Amstel, perhaps more crisper in the finish and a little more hoppy in the body. But overall it was still a standard lager and even though it was initially more exciting than Amstel towards the end of the can I was struggling to finish due to the sheer mediocrity of it.
While in the supermarket near the hotel, I spied an unusual red can nestled amongst the identikit lagers. All the other beers were 60 cents a can but this was one was marked at a whole euro! Perhaps a premium beer that would finally give a bit more nuance and flavour? I picked up the can labelled Koff Extra Brew IV and gave it a go. Well it wasn't mindblowing but it had more to it than the previous lagers I'd been suffering through. Brewed by Finnish brewery Sinebrychoff this was a darker, more malty beer and was pleasant to drink. I was probably drinking the equivalent of Finland's Carling but I enjoyed it and it made one of the more boring Eurovisions in recent memory pass by much more easily.
The holiday overall was pretty good, although the part of Gran Canaria I was in, Playa Del Ingles, is in much need of a little love and attention. Curiously the majority of the bars and restaurants in the area are located in shopping centres, the main ones being the Kasbah and the Yumbo. The Kasbah is like your bog standard sunny holiday strip of bars and clubs, except they are crammed together in a crumbling concrete structure. Me and The Lovely Jemma had a quick walk through and were not impressed. The Yumbo is better, and caters heavily to the gay scene, which gave it a more friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Only go for the bars though - the "shopping" is dismal, a seedy market atmosphere with hawkers desperately trying to get you to buy their shoddy wares, including wooden penises and squidgy fake boobs. I'd seen enough squidgy and frankly terrifying breasts courtesy of the elderly German hotel guests - I didn't want to take a memory of that home with me.
We spent a night at the Yumbo, sampling a few drinks at the bars and enjoying a couple of the drag shows there. Rickys Show Bar was probably the best, a non stop parade of burly drag queens miming along to classic show tunes and some entertaining audience interaction. It was a free show and to be honest if I had to pay I'd have been quite miffed, but for the low price of nothing it was a decent night out. Good strong mixed drinks as well.
In conclusion: go to Gran Canaria for the sunshine and cocktails, not for the beer. See you next week!